JCK’s 2020 Holiday Commercial Roundup

Welcome to JCK’s 11th annual holiday commercial roundup.

Each year, I like to do the roundup in a different way. In past years, I have supplemented my own observations with those of focus groups from different generations, industry marketing executives, and random people on the internet.

For 2020, we did a Zoom focus group, because if there’s one thing we all need, it’s more time on Zoom. Our panel consisted of seven women, almost all in their 20s—younger millennials and one member of Generation Z.

The participants were: Brena, 24, a graduate student living in upstate New York; Molly, 25, a marketer in North Carolina; Julia, 24, a banking analyst in Pennsylvania; Angelica, 27, a teacher in Pennsylvania; Kelley, 26, a data analyst in Delaware; Danielle, 30, a project manager in New York City; and Campbell, 21, a student in Pennsylvania.

Zoom focus group
The Zoom focus group, along with Headline Studio’s Katie Kennedy and Rob Bates

They looked at the following six commercials, listed in alphabetical order by brand:

 

Jewelers Mutual, Love Finds a Way

 

The panel’s thoughts:

Danielle: I liked it at first, but then the music got anxiety-inducing and I was a little bit put off by it. I did like that it was a lot of user-generated content so it felt very personal. I liked the tagline at the end [“We insure jewelry, and only jewelry”], because it shows they are the experts at it.

Molly: I didn’t get the point of the ad. The whole time, I wondered, “What is this for?” It didn’t really tell me why I need insurance on my jewelry. I don’t have diamonds yet. I will. But what else would I get insured?

Angelica: At the beginning I really liked it, it felt personal, with all the clips of the different people. But the music, and the voice-over, gave me serious Star Wars vibes, and that kind of threw me. I didn’t really know what I was watching a commercial for.

Campbell: I thought it was cute, but I didn’t really get it.

My thoughts:

This is one of a number of pandemic-themed ads we’ll be looking at, in this pandemic-themed year. Jewelers Mutual released a bunch of ads this year, including one I thought quite clever. But I chose this spot, released in April, because of its theme.

For the most part, it’s fine, delivering the standard COVID-19 messaging and tying it into Jewelers Mutual. One moment put me off: when the voice-over guy, who until that point had used the standard announcer voice, suddenly took it down a notch and declared, “And as we get through this. Which we will.” That tonal shift was jarring.

Overall, this seemed like it was put together a little too quickly, in order to respond to events.

While this is a purely personal reaction, I got choked up when I saw the people yelling out the window. It reminded me of New York City earlier this year, when everyone cheered for the first responders every night at 7 p.m., and how awful that time was. It took a couple of views to realize it was showing something else.

 

Kay Jewelers, Someday

 

The panel’s thoughts:

Julia: This was cute. I liked how it played into different moments of people’s lives. It wasn’t just about proposals, it was about all the other big moments in life that you can give jewelry for, so it felt a little a bit more inclusive than some of the other jewelry commercials.

Danielle: It’s cheesy. [It has the] schmaltzy music, which is still heart-tugging, but I was a little judgy of it in that way. I liked the jewelry, the close-ups of it—I thought it was pretty. I could see going to somewhere like Kay, which is a household name, and getting something that I then would pass down to other generations. That is important to me when it comes to jewelry.

Kelley: I love cheesy things. I liked this one. I liked how they focused more on the jewelry and paused on it a bit, and you could really see what the jewelry looks like. It’s not just rings—you can buy this jewelry for any type of occasion.

Campbell: I liked that you could see the jewelry close-up, and it wasn’t just rings, it was necklaces and earrings and things like that. I didn’t really understand the storyline and what was happening.

My thoughts:

This was the standard sentimental Kay ad—though I found it far less cheesy, and more effective, than some Kay ads I’ve watched over the years. This was my favorite this year, although, as you can see, it was not the panel’s.

I didn’t see “Every kiss begins with Kay” on this, or on Kay’s other holiday ads.

 

Natural Diamond Council, For Moments Like No Other

 

The panel’s thoughts:

Brena: I loved this one. It’s one of my favorites. It brought me to a place where I want to be right now—I want to be on the beach, I want to be in the sun, near an ocean. A lot of the other ads focused on COVID, and quarantining, and being with your loved ones this holiday season, which is great. This one brought me to a place where I want to be, and made the jewelry more desirable. I like the images that they did show of the jewelry, like the necklace.

Julia: It had a really great aesthetic to it. I liked how you could see all the jewelry—they did a lot of close-ups/zoom-ins of it. And, of course, you want to be running around on a beach with a bunch of diamonds.

Molly: I liked the images. If there was no sound, I would have liked it a lot more. I felt like it sounded like a travel ad or a Match.com ad, with the pop song and the voice-over and the birds and the ocean sounds.

Danielle: I thought it was really beautiful. I liked that you could see different moments, like when she’s with her mom, she’s getting married, she’s enjoying just being alive in the world on the beach. I liked the close-ups as well. I thought the jewelry was really pretty.

Kelley: It transports you to someplace you want to be. It was almost like a fragrance commercial. I noticed that they used an actress that I’ve seen in movies. So that initially did catch my eye.

My thoughts:

From her spirited dancing to that surprising—and slightly disconcerting—glance at the camera, I thought new Bond girl Ana de Armas made more of an impression than what this ad is supposed to be touting. I’m a little surprised that the word diamond was not spoken, never mind the word natural.

This was also the most popular ad of the group as far as YouTube views. The U.S. version has been watched 3 million times; the Indian version, 11 million. It was overall the panel’s second favorite ad, just behind the one coming up.

 

Pandora, Make Her Shine This Holiday

 

The panel’s thoughts:

Danielle: I really liked this one. I liked the vibe, how he’s strolling down the street, and you just get that cozy vibe. It’s Christmas, and stores are starting to close, but people are still celebrating.

Kelley: I liked the song and the vibe. But it would have been nice to have seen a bit more of him picking the jewelry, maybe see a few selections. You don’t really see any jewelry until the end.

Campbell: It was cheesy, but enough cheesy to be cute, without being overboard. I also felt like it was targeting my age. None of my friends are getting engaged.

Angelica: It was one of my favorites. I thought it was really cute. I know Pandora sells more than just charms, they have necklaces and earrings. I just wished they showed a little bit more of that.

Julia: It had a good overall vibe—happy, cheerful, the holidays. I also would have liked to have seen more jewelry than just the charm and the bracelet. I would have liked to have seen their holiday offerings too.

My thoughts:

As with so many of these spots, the music makes this ad. This is the third spot to use a version of a vintage song not performed by the original singer (in this case, Bill Withers).

This was the second most popular ad of the bunch on YouTube, with over 1 million views.

No one in the commercial is wearing a mask; the scene in this ad couldn’t take place right now. But the panel didn’t mind. In fact, they liked that.

“I’m over seeing the masks,” said Angelica. “We’re always reminded of COVID. It’s kind of nice to see some normalcy.”

 

Reeds Jewelers, New Moments 

 

The panel’s thoughts:

Campbell: I liked it, but didn’t love it. It was too fast to really look at the jewelry and see if there was anything I could buy.

Brena: It was very relevant but didn’t really stand out to me in any way.

Molly: I liked this one. I liked how they showed the text line. I know my boyfriend, my dad, my brother would never walk into a jewelry shop without having a game plan. It’s too overwhelming for them. I liked how it showed that you don’t have to leave your couch, you can text, and someone can show you the jewelry, and then you’re done.

Danielle: I’m not a jewelry connoisseur. I’m very particular, I know what I like. When I go on jewelry sites, I often want more information, but it takes time to get that information, so having [someone to talk to] would be really helpful, especially now that you can’t go in and see something physically. I didn’t really get a sense of the jewelry. I would like to know more about what their offerings are. It was cute. It was good.

My thoughts:

This commercial strikes me as functional and fine. It knows what it wants to say, and says it. It doesn’t do much more except try to pluck a heartstring or two—and doesn’t try too hard at that.

 

Zales, Virtual Consultant

 

The panel’s thoughts:

Campbell: It was quick, it got to the point. I got confused. Is he on his knee? Is he on the chair? It was fine. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful.

Brena: It was kind of cheesy. Didn’t wow me.

Molly: I liked how it was fast. I felt it got everything across. You saw Zales in the corner, so you knew it was a Zales ad. You saw the ring, you saw the virtual consultant, and your time isn’t wasted.

Danielle: I liked that it was very informational. There was a virtual assistant, you can talk to someone, and they can swap their camera around. That’s a good selling point, especially nowadays, but even at other times if you can’t get to a store.

Kelley: I liked that you can videoconference with a consultant—I didn’t know that was a thing you could do with fine jewelry. If I was going to pick up fine jewelry for someone, that’s something I would look more into.

My thoughts:

Just about every panelist was confused if he was kneeling or sitting. I was, too.

That said, I found this to be a clever spot, with a very 2020 twist. It also has a poignant undercurrent: a lot of people are stuck at home and could use someone to talk to, even if it’s a jewelry customer service person.

 

The panel’s final thoughts:

When the panelists were asked to choose their favorite ad, the Natural Diamond Council’s spot got two votes and Pandora’s got one; Pandora as first choice, Natural Diamond Council as second got three votes; and the Natural Diamond Council as first choice and Pandora second got one vote.

So that’s a narrow win for Pandora, but the Natural Diamond Council ad—which was generally referred to as “the one with Ana”—was a close second (and the choice of the demo-age organizer). Those two were clearly the top choices this year.

Asked what she would like to see in jewelry commercials, Molly answered, “I’d like to see more of lab diamonds. They are cheaper, bigger, and ethically sourced. That is what I’m more interested in as a 25-year-old.”

While I don’t agree that lab-grown diamonds are inherently more ethical, it’s striking that that framing has taken hold.

On the other hand, at least two panelists expressed a preference for jewelry that could be an heirloom.

“I like to wear jewelry from my family that’s been passed down,” said Julia. “[When the time comes that] I start to look at nicer pieces, I would have that pass-down mentality and gravitate toward something that will last a long time.”

Notably, this group—which was very interested in self-purchasing jewelry, including fine pieces—doesn’t get its buying ideas from TV:

Kelley: I don’t have cable TV, so I don’t see commercials. But I Instagram-shop a lot off of what I see influencers buy. It’s probably what I bought most this year, especially in quarantine.

Julia: I look at my Instagram discover feed, and if I find something I like there, I can tap on the picture and see exactly how much it is. Whereas with a commercial, you have to do a little bit more investigating.

Angelica: It feels more accessible when it’s [influencers] who are closer to our age. It makes me feel, That could be me. I could see myself wearing that.

My final thoughts:

As usual, my two favorite ads—from Kay and Zales—weren’t the panel’s. But I didn’t really love, or hate, any of this year’s crop. They were all solid, professional spots. No more, no less.

Some takeaways:

– The panelists wanted to see more jewelry in the commercials. That came up over and over. As Instagram allows them the opportunity to see unlimited product, they feel commercials should give them a sense of what’s being offered.

In our 2019 and 2018 focus groups, participants also talked a lot about the jewelry, though this group was more positive about what they saw.

– Participants had mixed feelings about COVID-related commercials. Most wanted an escape.

– The idea of video conferencing when you jewelry-shop was popular, and will likely outlast COVID.

– The group liked seeing different jewelry-giving moments beyond just an engagement.

– Having done this for so long, I tend to analyze the message of these ads, but the panel responded more to the “vibe” and feeling they evoked.

Nothing much happened in the Pandora commercial (basically, a guy buys his girlfriend jewelry), nor does de Armas say much in her voice-over (“Our stories, they belong to us”). They were still popular.

Finally, last year, I found the commercials to be a little dark. This year, I found them to be subdued and sentimental, more so than usual. Compare the mood of Kay’s ad above to the one it did for Valentine’s Day.

Let’s all hope that, next holiday, the mood will be better. And that we won’t have to hold this panel over Zoom.

Thanks to Advance Local’s Headline Studio client services specialist Katie Kennedy for doing a great job organizing this. And thanks to the panelists for their time and excellent, thoughtful insights.

And now I open the floor. Your thoughts?

Top: Ana de Armas in the Natural Diamond Council’s ad (image courtesy of the Natural Diamond Council)

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